Truffled Chicken in a Wine-Tomato Sauce

November 20, 2017 – We were down to our last ounce of truffles.  Had to come up with something great.

Thumbing through a Creole cookbook from old New Orleans, I got the inspiration for chicken in a wine and tomato sauce seasoned with the truffles.  Sounded good at the time but after the prep was done and the time for cooking came near, I began to have some doubt.  Didn’t want to come up with a loser recipe that would waste the last of our little treasures.

Courage, I thought.  Press on!  Have no fear!

We are partial to chicken thighs.  Juicier and more flavorful than the often dry breasts.  I prefer bone in and skin on.  The bone adds to the flavor.  The skin does, too, and you don’t have to eat the skin.  For this purpose I picked up some boneless, skinless thighs.  There’s no reason why other parts of the chicken wouldn’t work just as well.

I also diced a small piece of ham.  Thought that might contribute a little depth.

Aside from that, there was only wine and tomatoes.  I used a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes.  Fresh tomatoes would work but I didn’t have any on hand.

We decided to serve the sauce over rice.  It seemed a better fit than pasta, especially since the dish was inspired by the Creole cooking of Louisiana where rice rules.

All the above contributed to the dish.  But the star of the show was the truffle.  Far from being a disappointment, this preparation turned out to be the best of the three truffle dishes I made.  All my doubt and fear faded away as the enticing aroma of truffle filled the house.  This was a dish that touched all the senses in the most delightful way possible.

Truffled Chicken in a Wine – Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 pound ham, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (or diced fresh tomatoes)

1 ounce truffle, minced

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper

Cooked rice

Heat the oil in a heavy pan over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking.  Cook the chicken in the hot oil until it begins to brown.

Leaving the chicken in the pan, deglaze with the wine.  Add the tomatoes, truffles, crushed red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lower the heat to moderately low.  Let the mixture cook down for 15 or 20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a thick sauce.

Serve over rice.

Bon temps!

Truffle Mac & Cheese Balls

November 18, 2017 – Truffles packed in olive oil don’t have a long shelf life.  Once the jar is opened, the truffles should be used quickly.  What a delicious dilemma!

Truffle mac & cheese is a dish showing up on fine restaurant menus these days.  I saw no reason why my kitchen couldn’t offer the same.

It’s not hard to make mac & cheese from scratch.  Elbow macaroni.  A blonde roux to make a Béchamel sauce to make a Mornay sauce.  That whole process takes no more than 15 minutes.

I usually prefer peanut oil for making a roux.  Butter burns too easily.  It’s not best oil for making a dark roux.  But it is good for a blonde roux, which takes only seconds to make.

Gruyere is the cheese most often used for a Mornay sauce.  I used cheddar.  It melts better plus it’s the cheese in our taste memories from all the mac & cheese we ate as children.

The inclusion of the minced truffle adds a subtle flavor that can only be described as truffle-licious!

Once the mac & cheese balls are formed they should spend a couple of hours in the refrigerator.  Overnight is even better.  They’re easier to handle when they’re chilled.

To get them crispy on the outside while the cheese on the inside is melting, I dipped them in an egg wash before rolling them in bread crumbs mixed with freshly grated Parmesan.  I like Panko bread crumbs.  They have a wider flake allowing them to take on more flavor.

I fried the balls in peanut oil.  I like good olive oil for most things but peanut oil is my preference for frying.  The oven will work also but I think much of the wonderful crispness would be lost.

Let’s get fancy with my take on Truffle Mac & Cheese!

Truffle Mac & Cheese

(Makes about a dozen balls)

8 ounces elbow macaroni

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons milk, separated

8 ounces grated cheddar

1 ounce truffle, finely minced

3 eggs

2 cups bread crumbs

1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated

1 cup peanut oil

Prepare the macaroni according to directions.

Melt the butter over moderate heat.  Add the flour.  Stir to let the flour absorb the oil, creating a blonde roux.

Add two cups of milk and stir.  The mixture will thicken, becoming a Béchamel sauce.

When the Béchamel is thick and smooth, add the grated cheese.  Stir more as the cheese melts and combines with the Béchamel to become a Mornay sauce.

Add the minced truffle.

Stir in the prepared macaroni.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When the macaroni and Mornay sauce are sufficiently combined, take the pan off the heat.

Let the mixture has cooled enough to be handled, form it into balls.  Set the balls on a tray and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  Overnight would be even better.

When you’re ready to finish the mac & cheese balls, add three tablespoons of milk to three eggs.  Beat the egg and milk mixture well.

Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking.

Dip each mac & cheese ball first in the egg dip, then roll it in the Parmesan and bread crumbs.

Place the balls in the hot oil.  It won’t take long for the cheese inside to melt and the Parmesan-bread crumb mixture to brown.  Watch them closely.  Use tongs to turn them so they are evenly browned.

Bon temps!




Steaks with Truffle Sauce Reduction

November 12, 2017 – Oh Happy Day!

Someone sent me a jar of truffles!

No.  Not talking chocolate.

I’m talking about those amazing balls of deliciousness that grow beneath the ground among the roots of certain trees.  Similar to a mushroom.  Mushrooms grow above ground.  That’s the main difference.  Well, that and the amazing flavor a few slices of truffle add to a dish.

Female pigs and “truffle dogs” are used to harvest truffles.  The pigs are excited when they get a whiff of truffle, which is similar to the male pig’s sexual attractant.  The dogs  have to be trained to catch the aroma.  The pigs are more efficient but have a tendency in their excitement to eat the truffles they find.  An expensive snack.

For centuries it was thought truffles couldn’t be cultivated.  But in the late 18th century a fellow named Pierre Mauleon noticed that truffles grew among the roots of certain oak trees in rocky or chalky soil such as that prevalent in the south of France.  He came up with the idea of planting acorns from those trees in similar soil.  It worked.  Not the normal cultivation process.  More like encouragement than true cultivation.  Never mind.  Truffles were being produced.

Truffles are highly prized and, hence, expensive.  White truffles have been known to sell for as much as $5,900 per pound, though a price tag of $1,500 to $2,000 per pound is more customary in the farmers’ markets of Italy and France, the best known producers.  The record was set by a guy in Macao who paid $330,000 for a white truffle weighing in at 3.3 pounds.  Black truffles are less expensive but no less flavorful.

Using Mauleon’s method, truffles are now produced in several countries including Australia’s Tasmania, the United Kingdom, and several eastern European countries.  Even Washington and Oregon in the U.S. are coaxing truffles out of the ground.

You’d think with more production the prices would come down.  They haven’t.  Food economists estimate demand for truffles is still ten times production.  It also can take up to a decade for truffles to appear among the roots of their host trees.  It’s a long term investment most farmers are unable to make.

So I found myself with my own small cache of the prized gems produced in the United Kingdom.  What to do with them?  Very often truffles are simply sliced or minced and scattered raw over a steak or something similar.  I wanted to do a little more.

I cooked with them once before several years ago.  Using my memory, and a little research, I decided a reduction of truffle sauce for steaks would be a good start.

Filets are best to carry this sauce.  With less fat, they contribute a beef flavor but don’t overpower the delicacy of the truffles.

Butter, wine, chicken stock, and, most importantly, demi glace, are called for.  As to the demi glace, you’re welcome to invest the eight to ten hours it takes to make a good demi glace.  Or, I’m very pleased to say, you can now find restaurant quality demi glace in upscale grocery stores.  If the quality is good, I’m more than delighted to save myself eight to ten hours of work.

I used about a third of my supply for the following recipe which, with the demi glace, produced a deliciously turbid sauce that I would have been thrilled to drink.

There will be more to come!

Steak with a Reduction of Black Truffle Sauce

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons fine demi glace

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups chicken stock

1 ounce sliced black truffles

2 beef filets

Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the demi glace, wine, and chicken stock.  Reduce the heat and simmer slowly for half an hour, stirring occasionally.  It will thicken slightly during this process.

Add the truffles and simmer for another 20 minutes.  Watch the sauce closely and stir more often as the thickening process will increase during this second phase.

Salt and pepper the steaks to taste.  Cook them in your preferred manner.

Spoon some of the sauce over each steak.

Bon temps!

Mushroom Soup

October 31, 2017 – Halloween!  Fall!  Time for soup!  Mushroom soup!

We’re  not much into cream soups at our house.  Not really into pureed anything.  We like hearty.  Chunky.  Spicy.  So no cream of mushroom soup.  Just mushroom soup.

I started with what is called the Trinity in Louisiana, traditionally onion, green pepper, and celery.  I’ve started using roasted red pepper in place of the raw green because I think it adds a nice depth of flavor.  I trust I’ll be forgiven.

For more color and some spice I added serrano peppers.  I threw in some sage simply because I really like sage.

When the vegetables had softened, I added more olive oil and a little butter along with some flour to make a blonde roux.  A little heavy cream and milk for a cream sauce.  Some chicken stock and, in just the last few minutes, a handful of chopped potatoes to give the soup some extra body.

When making a soup or similar dish, it’s always best to season in layers.  To do that, taste at each step along the way and make adjustments.

We served this soup with an amazing garlic baguette we stumbled across.  It was one of the best loaves of bread I’ve ever eaten.  Crusty exterior, soft interior full of chunks of garlic.  Killer!

And the soup!  Easy.  Quick.  Perfect fall dining.

Even better, no trick or treaters showed up at our door.  We have all the chocolate to ourselves!

Happy Halloween indeed!

Mushroom Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/2 onion, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 rib celery, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices

2 -3 serrano peppers (to taste), thinly sliced crosswise

2 tablespoons ground sage

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

1 potato, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

Salt & pepper to taste

In a stock pot, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.

Saute’ the onion, roasted red pepper, celery, and serrano peppers until they are soft.  Add the mushrooms.  Let them cook down for about five minutes until they begin to soften.  Toss in the sage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the last tablespoon of olive oil and the butter.  When the butter has melted, dump in the flour.  Stir constantly until the flour has absorbed the oil.

Pour in the heavy cream and milk.  Continue stirring as the liquid begins to thicken.  Taste again and season with salt and  pepper as desired.

Add the chicken stock.  Adjust the seasonings.  Lower the heat and let the soup simmer slowly for 15 to 20 minutes.

At this point, the soup is essentially done. A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, throw in the bite size chunks of potato, bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes.  It will take the potato only about that long to cook.

Bon temps!